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Veteran School Choice Champion Is Top Pick for Key Policy Job at Ed. Dept.

By Alyson Klein — June 12, 2017 2 min read
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Jim Blew, the director of Student Success California, a 50CAN affiliate, is a top contender to lead the office of planning, evaluation, and policy analysis at the U.S. Department of Education, multiple sources say.

Blew declined to comment. The U.S. Department of Education did not confirm the information.

If ultimately nominated by the White House and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Blew would bring significant policy heft to the U.S. Department of Education, multiple sources say.

Blew was the national president of StudentsFirst, an education redesign organization started by former District of Columbia schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. He took that gig beginning in late 2014, when Rhee stepped down from the organization, serving until mid-2016, when StudentsFirst merged with 50CAN, a network of state advocacy organizations.

Before that, Blew spent nearly a decade as the Walton Family Foundation’s Director of K-12 Reform, advising the foundation on how to broaden schooling options for low-income communities. He worked in communications before devoting himself to K-12 policy. More in his bio. (Note: Walton provides support for Education Week coverage of parent-engagement and decisionmaking.)

And Blew has had a long relationship with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in championing school choice. The Walton Family Foundation donated to the Alliance for School Choice, which is affiliated with the American Federation for Children, the school choice advocacy organization that DeVos used to chair. AFC and the Alliance for School Choice put out a warm statement of congratulations when Blew was tapped to lead StudentsFirst back in 2014.

What’s more, Jason Botel, a deputy assistant secretary who is currently acting as the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, is also a 50CAN veteran. Before coming to the Education Department, Botel served as the executive director of the organization’s Maryland campaign arm.

In past administrations, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy analysis has been a pivotal position. For instance, Carmel Martin, who served in the post under former Secretary Arne Duncan, played a key role in developing signature programs such as Race to the Top, expanded School Improvement Grants, and the Obama administration’s waivers from many of the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act.

For now, the position has remained unfilled under the Trump administration.

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